The British Horseracing Authority has approved an increase in the minimum manning levels for Starting Stalls teams, from 9 to 11. The increase is effective from 1st February 2009 and returns the minimum manning level to what it was before 1st September 2006, when the then HRA amended the instruction on a trail basis following Racecourse Association representations.
The decision comes following compelling submissions from the Horseman’s Group, BHA Starters and a review canvassing views from all interested parties.
The Rules of Racing require a horse to be able to stand in the stalls for a minimum of two minutes with a horse either side, or on its own. This figure was arrived at because the vast majority of horses are able to achieve it in the first instance in a stalls test before racing.
The aim with any load is to ensure that horses spend the minimum time possible in the stalls. The longer time in the stall the greater the chance of a horse misbehaving, which is also likely to then lead to misbehaviour in other horses. An adverse experience for the horse may well affect behaviour for the future.
The focus should not only be on equine welfare, but also the welfare of the stall handlers, jockeys and starters who are working in and around the close confines of the stalls. Clearly, the overall aim should be to minimise exposure to any inherent, higher risk situation, and the longer or less efficient the load, the higher the possible risk.
Current statistics show that:
• 9 man teams have 79% more loads taking longer than the acceptable standard when compared to 11 man teams.
• 9 man teams have 263% more loads going beyond 2.5, 3 and 4 minutes (for up to 8, 9 to 12 and 13 to 20 runners respectively) when compared to 11 man teams.
• 9 man teams average loading times are between 14% and 20% higher than 11 man teams.
Commenting on the change, Paul Struthers, spokesman for the Authority, said:
“The Horseman’s Group was very strongly of the view that 11 man teams should be a mandatory minimum in order to give horses the attention they need at the start and to achieve efficient and safe loads.
“The Racecourse Association viewed the matter as a Health and Safety issue and that individual racecourses should have control over stalls handlers manning levels and be able to set these against their own risk assessments.
“We agreed with the Horseman’s Group that the issue is much more than a racecourse Health and Safety issue. The welfare of the sport’s participants, as well as our own starting team, is a key responsibility of the BHA.
“The case to revert to a minimum team of 11 was compelling. Larger teams enable a smoother and therefore quicker load. Horses become less fractious the less time they are in the stalls, and quick loads therefore reduce risks on the day and mean a horse is more likely to be able to give its best performance. Moreover, the risk of them becoming poor loaders and building in problems for the future is reduced. Additional handlers are needed to assist with difficult loaders and emergency situations.
“Smooth loads are also essential to good time keeping, with resultant effects on betting turnover and the image of the sport. “Experience over the past 2 years has also shown that where a racecourse that normally operates with a team of 9 increases its team to 11 for certain fixtures, loading times are not noticeably improved. This is because the imported casuals are not actually used to working within that team and there is no chance for teamwork to evolve.”
30TH JANUARY 2009
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
RUNNERS MINIMUM MANNING LEVELS
Upto 15 9
16 to 17 10
18 to 20 11
20 plus When there are more than 20 runners in a race there must be
an additional “leader” for every 3 extra runners over 20 and 2 additional “pushers” for each additional 10 runners over 20.
RUNNERS MINIMUM MANNING LEVELS
Upto 20 11
20 plus When there are more than 20 runners in a race there must
be an additional “leader” for every 3 extra runners over 20 and 2 additional “pushers” for each additional 10 runners over 20.